Communications specialist, Navy
Office of Community Outreach
A 2013 Beech Grove High School graduate is serving aboard the USS Hawaii, a Navy attack submarine.
Seaman Recruit Zachery M. Ellis is a culinary specialist aboard the Hawaii-based sub, a Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine and the first commissioned vessel of its name. The ship was named to recognize the tremendous support the Navy has enjoyed from the people and state of Hawaii, and in honor of the rich heritage of submarines in the Pacific.
Measuring three stories tall, 370 feet long, 33 feet wide, weighing 7,800 tons when submerged and with a complement of more than 130 sailors, the ship is one of the Navy’s newest and most technologically sophisticated submarines.
Attack submarines are designed to pursue and assault enemy submarines and surface ships through the use of torpedoes. The subs also carry cruise missiles with conventional high-explosive warheads to attack enemy shore facilities, and they conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, mine laying and support special operations.
As a 19 year-old with numerous responsibilities, Ellis said he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person. He added that his choice to join the Navy was about needing direction. “I was not really sure exactly what I wanted to do. Part of me wants to follow in my families footsteps and be a law enforcement officer, but you have to be 21 for that, so I am hoping the Navy will give me the direction I need to help me grow and make a decision.”
The USS Hawaii, along with all of the military’s submarines, is manned solely by volunteers from within the Navy. Because of the stressful environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation, a Navy spokesman said. Submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy as each crew has to be able to operate, maintain and repair every system or piece of equipment on board.
Although it is difficult for most people to imagine living on a submarine, the challenging conditions actually build strong fellowship among the crew, said the spokesman, who added that the squads are highly motivated and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills. Sailors usually get about six hours of sleep per day; most fall asleep quickly because they are tired after a long workday.
Ellis said he is proud of the work – protecting America on the world’s oceans – that he is doing as part of Hawaii’s 130-member crew. Imagine working and living in such close quarters with no windows and surrounded by technology. Then lock the doors, submerge beneath the surface of the ocean and travel silently underwater for months. This requires a tremendous amount of skill, knowledge, personal discipline and teamwork, he stated.
“I’m proud of all USS Hawaii sailors and equally impressed with the type and quality of work that goes aboard the submarine each day,” said Cmdr. William A. Patterson, the vessel’s commanding officer. “Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults, reliable, flexible and ready to respond worldwide at any time. Their work ethic, enthusiasm and esprit de corps are second to none, and they are the backbone of the Navy’s undersea war-fighting capability.”
As a member of one of the Navy’s most relied upon assets, Ellis and other USS Hawaii sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.